• Various perspectives

  • The Bathhouse

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    My name is Erik. I’ve worked in the bathhouse in the city’s residential district for about five years now. While most of the attendants clean the towels, tend to the temperature of the water, and serve the clientele drink and refreshments, I often attend to more … intimate requests. My customers include bored nobility, wealthy visitors and other people of means. They seek me out as someone who caters with discretion, and is a cut above the those who work at the Regal Maid.

    There are several of us scattered throughout the city. A few others even work here in the bath house. Our well-being and security are governed by a patron who shall remain nameless. We function as a courtesans’ guild, but without the charter and recognition.

    Miss Meadow came into the bathhouse a few years ago. A slip of a thing who barely stood to my shoulders, she came to me informed and with purpose. She knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to ask.

    There are those who enter the bath house, the Alexis Baily’s and Isolde Garibaldi’s of the world who draw attention by their beauty and presence. Conversation often stops. People stare in desire or jealousy.

    Meadow was not one of them.

    She would often be at the bath house some time before I or others even realized she was there. It was a disconcerting feeling because I like to show some deference to my regulars. Perhaps given some attention and care one could consider her pretty and an abstract sort of fashion, but there was nothing about her that drew much attention, except perhaps for her tattoos.

    Her arms, shoulders, and back were inked in the most remarkable fashion. In a few instances, small scars had been incorporated into the designs to create a third dimension to the art. Most of them appeared to be dragons, serpents, and other fantastic creatures. I asked her once about them, and she responded with a smirk that horses and flowers were so blasé. I left the matter at that.

    She could be quite the conversationalist when she put her mind to it. She was schooled, bright, and intelligent. There was a point in time when a few of the socialites would join her in the bath, and their laughter and hushed whispers echoed regularly.
    The Wilkes affair, ended all of it.

    After that, she remained quite alone for some time. She still came to me regularly, though there was a detached loneliness to her. She was a good client, and I must say she had remarkable control of her body.

    This brings me to the latest incident, which happened last month.

    The Wilkes affair was quietly becoming a distant memory, yet Miss Meadow still sat alone in the corner. She seemed particularly morose today, and had not sought my attentions.

    Bruce came in with his usual entourage. The first son of a minor noble who stood to inherit a rather large estate, Bruce was handsome, loud and arrogant. His entourage consisted of other minor nobles, cousins, friends, and others who wished to garner as much favor as possible. It’s often not what you know, but who you know in this world after all. His bodyguard Kern sat outside the water, looking as bored as usual.

    Bruce and his entourage occupied one section of the pool. Miss Meadow sat in the other. I had privately hoped Miss Meadow would join them, but there were words exchanged. Suddenly, the boisterous conversion quieted, and Bruce assumed a most venomous expression. A couple of the ladies sitting with Bruce whispered in conspiratorial delight. Sadly, I hadn’t caught what was said, but I did hear what followed.

    “I think you heard me the first time Bryce”, Miss Meadow said, deliberately mispronouncing his name. Bruce’s venomous expression garnished a smile. He looked up at Kern and said with obvious delight, “Kern my friend, please remove the boorish cunt from my presence”

    Kern looked up grinning, his boredom replaced with malicious purpose. I thought to intervene, but Kern was rather large. I was no warrior so instead, directed another attendant to fetch the guard.

    Kern walked around the pool to where Miss Meadow sat. She seemed oddly detached from the situation. With a delighted sneer, Kern reached down and grabbed Miss Meadow’s hair. My gut twisted a bit, watching this unfold. The guards would arrive much to late to save Miss Meadow from being accosted.

    What Miss Meadow did was so fast, I was entirely unsure of what transpired. She twisted, her right arm flashed out, and it appeared as if she poked Kern in the throat.

    The effect was rather telling. Kern staggered back, eyes bulging, suddenly unable to breathe. He made a horrible gagging sound as Miss Meadow leapt naked out of the pool. As Kern struggled, she struck him three, perhaps four times in the side and back. It was if Kern was a marionette whose strings had been cut. His body simply went limp, and he went down with a hard smack as his face hit the tiles.

    Miss Meadow stood over Kern for a moment searching, before reaching and unsheathing a large knife from Kern’s belt. Then with an unsettling casualness, she walked around the pool to where Bruce sat.

    A few of Bruce’s entourage immediately hopped out of the pool and fled. Bruce seemed transfixed to his position in fear. Then Miss Meadow hopped into the pool in front of Bruce, holding the knife.

    I didn’t hear what Miss Meadow said. It was whispered quietly in Bruce’s ear as she ran the point of the knife on his face. All I know is that Bruce turned very pale and relieved himself in the pool.

    The guards came about ten minutes later. I and several others spoke to them. No charges were pressed, and Bruce hasn’t shown his face in the bath house since.

    Miss Meadow still comes to me regularly, the detached loneliness ever present. She pays well, and I treat her with the respect, intimacy and deference my profession requires. But the idle curiosity of the nature her background and the tattoos has been replaced by an underlying current of wariness.

  • The Wraith

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    It was a cold, autumn night. The moon scattered dim light through a star strewn, cloud speckled sky. A light wind scattered leaves on the forest floor. Gy’Yeegu stood with two of her trusted soldiers, R’rosh and J’Kargh. Almost a dozen younglings stood chattering nervously in quiet, fearful whispers at the scene before them.

    There were two younglings, both dead, yet propped bizarrely in a comfortable sitting position facing each other as if playing a game. In between them was a silver token with two faces.

    One of the younglings had its throat cut in the most bizarre manner, as if stricken by a large extremely thin blade. The other had two vicious cuts under its arm and its throat slashed open. It had likely bled out within moments by the blood that stained the ground. None of the younglings heard anything. They both had died silently in the night.

    “Take them”, Gy’Yeegu gestured to the younglings, “…and bury them properly. J’Kargh, help them”

    The younglings whined and cowered. J’Kargh sneered and shouted with menace, “You heard your Gynarch! Now!”. Several of the younglings moved forward fearfully and with J’Kargh’s help, gathered the two up. The whines continued as they ventured through the forest back to the cave carrying the deceased.

    R’rosh stepped forward and picked up the two faced token and brought it to Gy’Yeegu. “It’s the old Eastlander symbol, the human god of vengeance”, he said, flipping the coin over. “The children are fearful of the night now. They say an Eastlander wraith haunts these woods.”
    Gy’Yeegu sniffed and spat, “This is no wraith that haunts these woods R’rosh. I smell human … a female. Her scent lingers here”.

    Gy’Yeegu turned and paced anxiously while R’rosh watched. Finally, she spoke again, “Tell the younglings it is no Eastlander wraith but an uppity human who thinks she’s better than us. Tell them to travel in pairs. We must be strong! We will continue to raid these humans and teach them that WE are the ones to fear!”.

    Gy’Yeegu walked over and stared angrily at the pass that led to the road. The humans might have their cities and steel, but they were weak. Gy’Yeegu would show them that while they thought themselves predators, that they were mere sheep to the might of the Gnolls. With a satisfied nod of self-assurance she turned to R’rosh with a bitter snarl…

    …but R’rosh was not there.

    “R’rosh?”, she whispered into the night, but the only answer was the rustle of leaves on the ground. Her hackles went up, and a cold feeling traveled down her spine. She quietly walked over to the place where R’rosh had stood and nearly tripped over him in the darkness. He lay there, his eyes wide open. The air steamed and coppery scent of fresh blood filled the air.

    Suddenly, there was the faint ping of metal as a silver token landed at her feet. Gy’Yeegu looked briefly down with a mixture of fear, anger, and horror at the visage of the two faced coin before violently swinging behind her.

    Her scythe however, met nothing but air.

    Some thirty feet ahead of her was a small hooded figure shrouded in a cloak, which billowed in the gentle breeze. Two eyes glinted red in the moonlight. Then with a quick gesture of its hands it vanished into darkness.